As the Wisconsin men’s basketball team gears up for the Chicago Invitational Challenge and takes on three nonconference teams in the next five days, there will be more on the line than just another non-conference win for head coach Bo Ryan.
With his next victory (which could come as soon as Tuesday with a victory over the University of Missouri-Kansas City), Ryan can tie legendary University of Wisconsin coach Doc Meanwell for No. 2 on the program’s all-time win list. In his 11 years in Madison, Ryan has racked up 245 wins, putting him just one win away from Meanwell, who coached the Badgers from 1911-1917 and again from 1920-1934.
For Ryan, a self-proclaimed basketball historian, reaching Meanwell’s historic number Tuesday would be a major personal accomplishment.
“Doc Meanwell was one of those guys who really had his players making the proper cuts, proper reads – he was way ahead of his time, it was the early Princeton offense,” Ryan said at his weekly Monday press conference. “It’s nice to be a part of a program where players can get those kind of numbers, whatever those numbers add up to, and I’ll let everybody else decide what those mean. But to be listed with Doc Meanwell for anything to me is quite an honor.”
After playing Missouri-Kansas City at the Kohl Center Tuesday, UW travels to the Sears Centre Arena outside Chicago Friday to take on Bradley, followed by a matchup the next day against either Nevada or BYU.
Ryan compared the odd setup of the tournament, with one home game and two road games, to the South Padre Invitational in Texas, which Wisconsin competed in during the 2006-07 season. Such tournaments serve as a chance for the Badgers to see how they stack up against other, smaller programs from around the country, the men’s basketball head coach explained, and often they face new, unfamiliar opponents there.
Tuesday, Ryan will be looking for his squad to continue its impressive team defense, as Wisconsin surrendered just 33 points to Wofford Saturday. Holding the Terriers to 20 percent shooting from both the field and behind the arc, Ryan has been pleased by what he has seen on the defensive side of the ball.
“I just like the way [the defense has] looked for each other, I like the way they’ve played off of one another, knowing that things are going to be changing here from the other side of the ball,” Ryan said. “Things can’t change with us; we have to still execute, we still have to get in position, we still have to do what we try to do better than other teams.”
Ryan said he is also excited about the development of forward/center Jared Berggren, as the redshirt junior is averaging 11 points per through the first three contests of the season. Though he’s still proving that he has the physical presence and ball skills to build a formidable inside game, Berggren has turned into one of the Badgers’ biggest post threats thus far.
Ryan said Berggren already had some solid post moves coming into this season, and that he is counting on the Princeton, Minn., native to blossom into one of the Badgers’ top scoring threats in his final two years.
“He had a decent feel around the basket, but he’s worked at it, he really has,” Ryan said. “He really was held back with the shoulder problem, but that shoulder problem’s been taken care of, and I think these next two years, his last two years, he’s going to be a good player in the Big Ten.”